Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Rosalea Hamilton | Our bloody mayhem in global perspective

Published:Wednesday | June 21, 2017 | 6:00 AM
Rosalea Hamilton
The mother of Rushane Smith, a 13-year-old boy who was brutally murdered and his body discovered on Eve Lane, Kingston, consoles her daughter who is overcome with grief on January 26.
Nadian Dyer, 24, was murdered and her boy buried inside a bedroom in West End, Negril, recently. It is believed that her three-year-old daughter, Orlandie Malcolm, seen here in the photo, might have also been killed, but her body has not been discovered.
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On June 13, 2017, The Gleaner's lead story titled 'Bloody mayhem' reported that 54 murders were committed during the previous week. Stunned by this report, I decided to compare 54 murders in ONE WEEK with the ANNUAL number of murders committed in other countries across the world.

According to the latest United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) data, 71 countries in the world had fewer than 54 murders in any ONE YEAR, including Austria (44 murders in 2015), a country with three times Jamaica's population. This is mind-boggling! Other comparisons provide more evidence that we have a monumental crisis on our hands.

 

Among most murderous

 

Jamaica is the fifth most murderous countries compared to 218 other countries in the world. In 2016, Jamaica recorded 1,350 murders. This is more murders than 180 countries reported in a one-year period. In 2012, Haiti, with nearly four times our population (10.8 million), had fewer murders than Jamaica (1,033). Jamaica's murder rate at 48 murders per 100,000 persons was nearly five times that of Haiti, with only 10 murders per 100,000. Mozambique, with 10 times the size of our population (30 million), had only 849 murders in 2011 with a murder rate of only three persons per 100,000.

In fact, Jamaica's murder rate is worse than that of countries at war, like Central African Republic with a rate of 13.6 murders per 100,000 (a total of only 610) in 2012 and Sudan with a rate of 6.5 murders per 100,000 in 2012.

St James has become Jamaica's murder capital with 268 murders in 2016. According to data from the Jamaica Crime Observatory, the communities with the highest number of murders in St James in 2016 were Norwood (18), Flanker (15) and Salt Spring (13). With a total of 46 murders, these three communities had more murders than the annual number of murders reported by 69 countries, including 15 Caribbean countries. Even more incredulous is the murder rate in these communities compared to that of the most murderous country in the world.

In 2015, El Salvador surpassed Honduras as the most murderous country in the world with 109 per 100,000, or 1.1 murders per 1,000 persons. In 2016, the murder rate in Norwood (with about 11,520 residents) was higher than the murder rate in El Salvador with 1.6 murders per 1,000 persons.

In Flanker (with about 5,004 residents), the murder rate was about three times higher than El Salvador's with three murders per 1,000 persons; and in Salt Spring (with about 2,999 residents) the murder rate was, astonishingly, more than four times higher than El Salvador with 4.3 murders per 1,000 persons. This is shocking!

These comparisons should convince us that we have a serious national crisis on our hands. Blaming each other and pointing fingers at politicians will not help and will make things worse. There is more than enough blame to assign to all of us for our flawed actions and inactions that have collectively contributed to this current state of affairs.

For too long, most of us have tolerated, accepted or participated in fostering a culture of criminality that is now out of control. Our 'a nuh nutten' culture has nurtured wrongdoings and immoral acts for decades. It has now mushroomed into a Category Five hurricane of murders engulfing all of us.

 

Time for action

 

We now need meaningful, supportive actions and introspection, not a bag a mout!

Let's learn lessons from the people of Portland, the parish with the fewest murders, and August Town, a community that saw no murders in 2016, and encourage them to keep doing what they are doing. Let's support the good policemen and women who risk their lives policing the most murderous communities in the world; some also risking their lives by standing up and fighting against fellow corrupt cops.

Let's call Crime Stop (311) or use the StayAlert App to report what we know, while remaining anonymous, and support the police in their life-threatening work. Let's explore creative solutions.

Experience has shown that our music and culture can be used to create a space for change and transformation; that's what the University of Technology, Jamaica through the USAID-funded Fi Wi Jamaica project, is doing. In collaboration with our partners in St James, our music is being used as a medium for expression of pain, healing, transformation and empowerment.

Fellow Jamaicans at home and abroad, let's join hands to support each other in curbing this culture of criminality. Let's redirect our energies to lift up, not tear down, each other as we collectively slay this crime monster.

- Rosalea Hamilton, PhD, is VP of the University of Technology, Jamaica. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and rosaleahamilton@gmail.com.